Thomas Rongen interview: Winning with American Samoa, the world’s worst team, and being played by Michael Fassbender

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Thomas Rongen’s story is even more remarkable than the one depicted on screen in new Hollywood movie Next Goal Wins

The redemption tale of the world’s worst football team is currently captivating audiences around the world. Next Goal Wins is the story of how American Samoa, having previously lost 31-0 to Australia, would finally win their first match in 30 years.

It is the story of goalkeeper Nicky Salapu, persuaded to return after that harrowing defeat and winning the admiration of his son. It is the story of Jaiyah Saelua, the first trans woman to compete in a World Cup qualifier. It is also the story of Thomas Rongen.

“It has been a badass ride,” Rongen tells Sky Sports. The Dutchman who left Amsterdam as a young man for a new life in the United States, Rongen is the villain of Taika Waititi’s movie, as portrayed by Michael Fassbender, but a hero of the true story that inspired it.

In just three weeks, this once celebrated coach, who had won the MLS Cup in 1999, turned this team into winners. His time on the island is about how he changed them but also about how its people changed him, helping him to confront his own personal tragedy.

American Samoa did not just change his life. It saved it.

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